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'Fruits of freedom': Minnesota veteran drops out of congressional race to help with efforts in Ukraine

When Ukraine was attacked, most of us in the U.S. felt helpless, asking ourselves what Mark J. Lindquist asked himself: "What's the most I can do to help?"

MINNEAPOLIS — The Ukrainian people who have stayed to fight for their country have shown the world what it means to defend themselves and their neighbors at all costs.

But from day one, they knew they'd need help. After all, their president asked the world weeks ago: "Are there any of you out there that will join us?"

When Ukraine was attacked, most of us here in the U.S. felt helpless, and many of us asked ourselves the question Mark J. Lindquist asked himself: "What's the most I could do to help the Ukrainians?"

On Tuesday, Jana spoke with Lindquist, an Ortonville man and veteran, who is giving up his run for Congress to go to Ukraine and answer that country's call.

"Well, the most I could do, Jana, is go. Right?"

The Air Force veteran — and until a few days ago, Democrat running for Congress in Minnesota's 7th District — filled out the application to join the territorial defense of Ukraine, submitted it, and then bought a plane ticket to Poland. He's schedule to leave in a week. 

"I was thinking about it like this: It's like if you were to weigh the scales of what's important. Is a single congressional race in the USA more consequential than the potential for World War III? I don't think so. I am simply trying to respond to the thing most urgent, I think," he said.

And while thousands of veterans around the world have done the same, they know it will be slow to get the green light from the Ukrainian government or embassy — two entities that already have a lot on their plates.

But Mark is going anyway. 

He says even if he can't fight, he can do something that he feels he is called to do because of his history.

"As I look at my life and how blessed I have been to enjoy the fruits of freedom — I mean, think about it — I started life in an orphanage in Seoul, South Korea, which means I was part of the 15% of the orphans that got chosen for adoption from those orphanages in the 80s. For the other 85%... they didn't get a call," he said, adding, "Then I got to come to America. How lucky is that?"

Watch Jana and Mark's extended interview:

That is the origin story that motivated Mark to enlist in our armed forces 15 years ago, and then again to AmeriCorps to help people in need.

Now, when he watches what's unfolding from 5,000 miles away, the images of children in orphanages remind him where he came from. There is no question war will make more orphans in Ukraine, and Mark says he wants to be able to help them directly.

"What if I could possibly deliver some of these orphans back across the border and give another child from planet Earth the same blessing I was given?" he said. "Which is a chance at a life filled with freedom."

He added, "I mean, how full circle can you come? And now I feel like there is a kid out there that in 40 years will be me. He or she can't walk to the border — I gotta carry them."

Some may be asking: Will he have what he needs to fight if he goes? Well, he has to take that with him.

In order to apply to go fight for Ukraine, you must agree to bring your own gear. Mark says he already has a deployment kit he's prepared to take with him, holding things like body armor and MRE's.

More on the war in Ukraine:

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